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May 5, 2015

More Than Just a Drop In The Bucket

By Anna Kim - Product Manager

Most of us take the water we use in our homes for granted, having grown accustomed to having an endless supply of fresh water at our fingertips.  But as California heads into its fourth year of drought, it is becoming abundantly clear that water is a precious resource that must be protected and used judiciously.

At Blu, we seek to create homes that are lighter on the environment, in terms of both the resources used to build the homes as well as the resources necessary to live in them.  Our last blog touched on what we are doing to reduce energy consumption of our homes via our goal to produce all net zero homes in California by 2018 and all net zero homes nationwide by 2020.  Today, we would like to talk about what Blu is doing to reduce water consumption in every single home we build.

Infographic_Energy_v2_water graphic_cropped.jpg

The average family of four uses an astonishing 146,000 gallons of water per year [1].  Through thoughtful product selection and eco-conscious design, Blu produces beautiful and high performance homes that use thousands of gallons less than typical homes without sacrificing on performance or functionality (to cut to the chase… your shower will still have great flow!).

Water Saving Fixtures and Appliances: WaterSense is a voluntary EPA sponsored program that independently tests and labels products that meet water efficiency and performance standards. All of our homes incorporate WaterSense labeled showerheads, kitchen and bath faucets, and toilets that use anywhere from 20-30% less water than standard fixtures.  In addition to being water efficient, these fixtures meet criteria such as spray coverage and spray force to ensure that you don’t have to sacrifice performance for water conservation.

  • Showerheads: WaterSense 2.0 gallons per minute (gpm) showerheads, compared to typical showerheads that are 2.5 gpm, saving 2,900 gallons per year[2]
  • Kitchen and Bath Faucets: WaterSense 1.8 gpm kitchen sink faucets and 1.5 gpm bathroom faucets, compared to typical faucets that are 2.2 gpm, saving 4,000 gallons per year[3]
  • Toilets: WaterSense dual-flush toilets that average 1.28 gallons per flush (gpf), compared to regular toilets that use 1.6 gpf, saving 13,000 gallons per year[4]
  • Clothes Washer: Energy Star certified high efficiency front-loading washer that uses 77% less water compared to top-loading washers, saving 5,000 gallons per year[5]
  • Dishwasher: Energy Star certified dishwasher that uses as little as 5 gallons per load,  compared with 10 to 15 gallons per load, saving 1,100 gallons per year[6]

Instantaneous Hot Water: How long do you leave the tap on while waiting for the water to get hot? The average household allows up to 12,000 gallons of clean, unused water per year go down the drain while waiting for hot water[7].  At Blu, we install on-demand hot water circulators in our homes, ensuring that hot water is readily available once you turn on the faucet.  In this “instant hot” system, a button press activates a recirculating pump that pulls in hot water from the water heater while simultaneously sending cooled-off water in the hot water lines back to the water heater to be reheated and reused. In addition to having the convenience of hot water available on demand, you no longer need to dump water down the drain while waiting for it to heat up.

Landscape Design: Cutting water consumption doesn’t just start at the front door.  In fact, the average household uses more water outdoors than it does for showering and washing clothes combined![8] A typical suburban lawn is extremely high maintenance, requiring over 10,000 gallons of supplemental water in addition to regular mowing and fertilizing[9].  Blu’s talented landscaping partners work with many of our clients to identify climate appropriate and native plant species and create a backyard oasis that is beautiful, low maintenance, and requires very little water.  Xeriscaping (often incorrectly but understandably spelled zeroscaping), the selection of drought tolerant plants such as desert grasses, shrubs, and flowering plants, can further reduce watering needs in arid climates -- particularly when coupled with other landscaping elements like rock gardens, concrete planters, and pavers.

Best of all, these water saving strategies can also help you reduce your energy use due to the “Drops-to-Watts Connection”. There is a hidden energy cost to supplying water.  In fact, the EPA estimates that about 8% of the nation’s energy demand is used to pump, heat, treat, and deliver water[10], so the less water we consume, the less energy we use!

In response to the drought, California’s Governor Jerry Brown recently imposed a mandatory 25% reduction in water consumption for California residences and businesses.  At first, this may sound like a daunting goal and the individual strategies outlined above may feel like the proverbial drop in the bucket.  

However, when looked at collectively, all of these savings add up. By using water saving fixtures and appliances, hot water recirculation systems, and thoughtful landscaping, Blu homes can cut average water consumption by a whopping 50,000 gallons per year.  To put that into perspective, that’s roughly equivalent to three household swimming pools or the fuel capacity of a Boeing 747.  More importantly, these savings are achievable without affecting your day to day routine.  So for those of you who are contemplating reverting to once a week showers, fear not!  There are better ways to cut back on water consumption without adversely affecting indoor air quality!

[1] http://www.epa.gov/WaterSense/pubs/indoor.html

[2] http://www.epa.gov/WaterSense/products/showerheads.html

[3] http://www.home-water-works.org/indoor-use/faucet, https://www.portlandoregon.gov/water/article/305150  - 11 gallons per day x 4 persons x average 25% reduction x 365 = ~4,000 gallons

[4] http://www.epa.gov/WaterSense/products/toilets.html

[5] http://www.energystar.gov/productfinder/product/certified-clothes-washers/details/2233099

https://www.energystar.gov/products/certified-products/detail/clothes-washers - 13 gallons x 392 loads = 5,080

[6] http://www.home-water-works.org/indoor-use/dishwasher

http://manuals.frigidaire.com/prodinfo_pdf/Specsheets/FGBD2445N_0214_EN.pdf

[7] http://www.gothotwater.com/water-conservation

[8] http://www.epa.gov/watersense/outdoor/

[9] http://www.epa.gov/greenhomes/ConserveWater.htm

[10] http://www.waterefficiency.net/WE/Articles/Drops_to_Watts_Leveraging_the...

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Comments

Shane Says:

October 6, 2015 11:33am

No gray water system?

Stephanie Nixon Says:

October 6, 2015 3:40pm

Hi Shane,

Thank you for your question. All our homes can be built with a gray water system, as an upgrade option.

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